Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"I'm So Happy I Get to Do This Because This is What I Love."

The quote above is from one of my new students, Sheila.  She's maybe a little older than middle aged, and probably part of the reason I can't pin down her age is that she swims EVERY MORNING AT 5AM (the photo above is of the gear I would need if I swam every morning at 5am.  You think I'm joking...).

At a time when I'm either still in snoozeville or dragging my sleepy ass out of bed to teach the 6am class (because when I teach 6am, I wake up 15 minutes before I need to leave the house...but tomorrow I move into my sweet, peaceful, non-basement, non-loud-roommates-above-me-all-night-stomping-around one-bedroom apartment, so I am entertaining dreams of waking up well in advance of class and sipping coffee in my brightly lit all-to-myself kitchen, perhaps reading the paper or a yoga book, so that I am refreshed and awake in time for 6am class.  But let's be honest, I'll probably still roll out of bed & into the studio.  Anyway...)

So, Sheila.  Many people look at their exercise routines as a necessary evil to stay healthy and in shape.  But Sheila (who has a lovely dry sense of humor, don't get me wrong) told us in all sincerity that she says to herself, every morning at 5 AM when she's stepping her toes into that cold swimming pool, "I am so happy I get to do this because this is what I love."

It reminds me of this wonderful podcast that my friend Susannah shared with me a while ago, that I've listened to several times, and that I'm now sharing with all of you.  In it yoga master Sean Corn says:

"I trust that if I do my yoga practice, I'm going to get stronger and more flexible. If I stay in alignment, if I don't push, if I don't force, then my body will organically open in time. I know that if I breathe deeply, I'll oxygenate my body. It has an influence on my nervous system. These things are fixed and I know to be true. 

But I also recognize that it's a mystical practice, and you can use your body as an expression of your devotion. So the way that you place your hands, the ways that you step a foot forward or back, everything is done as an offering. I offer the movements to someone I love or to the healing of the planet. And so if I'm moving from a state of love and my heart is open to that connection between myself and another person or myself and the universe, it becomes an active form of prayer, of meditation, of grace."

 Forget the Sean Corn pose...I want the Sean Corn hair!

In Bikram Yoga sometimes we can get so caught up in pushing and struggling and getting things just right, that we forget to be patient and loving with ourselves.  Bikram can also attract a certain type of personality, one that scoffs at the idea of "body prayer" and chanting words we don't understand and sniffing essential oils instead of just DOING THE YOGA, ALREADY.  No doubt I am of that mindset.  But if we think of every class as a gift we're giving ourselves...if we start each class thinking "I am so happy to be here, that I get to do this..." think of what we could accomplish!

Speaking of what we can do, I was taking lovely co-teacher Erica's class this week and she was talking during savasanas about the importance of staying focused, staying in the present moment, staying together with the class.  I was listening, but I was also thinking about how my practice has been getting a little junky lately, maybe it's time for me to do a vegan month again, and when I move into my new apartment I should practice my wall bends every morning to work on my upper back flexibility and "DANIELLE.  Don't go on autopilot.  Move with the class and stay with my words."  

Erica had TOTALLY CAUGHT ME.  And once I realized I was on autopilot...I realized I had been on autopilot pretty much since I moved to Cleveland.  You know what would make your practice less junky, Danielle? ACTUALLY FOCUSING ON YOUR PRACTICE.

Later that week I went to Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh in the Strip District.  The first time I went to this studio (forgive me if you've heard this story already, but let's face it, it's a good one) was a 6am class the weekend before I arrived in Cleveland.  Class was moving right along and at party time (our "first official water break" about 20 minutes into class) I reach down for my water and realize that no one else is doing the same...then I look around and realize that NO ONE ELSE HAS WATER. Not a single person in a class of 25 or more. NO PARTY TIME. 

The inside of my mouth the first time I tried Bikram with no water.

The teacher Shannon was fabulous and didn't call me out on my water drinkin' ways until Fixed Firm. It was definitely one of the most focused, disciplined group of students I've ever encountered.  Anyway, when I took class there again last week, I was still a little on auto pilot, and it was painfully, flagrantly obvious when everyone else was so in sync...

But since then, not only have I successfully worked on my water discipline (I've taken a couple of classes with no water, and even taught a few times without water - in fact, twice I've given my Cleveland students my water bottle rather than have them leave the room, which I never would have done before, given my selfish attachment to water in class)...but I'm also going to start teaching at Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh a few times a week, on Thursday nights/Friday mornings!

I'm excited about this not only because I'll get a wider range of feedback on both my practice and my teaching (not that Jeannine and Erica are not fabulous - they most definitely are - but I was spoiled in San Francisco with the WEALTH of fabulous teachers at my disposal), get to spend regular time with my family, but eventually, I'll take advanced classes and become the super duper bendy person I was meant to be (like BY Pittsbugh owner Zeb who is, let's face it, AMAZING. Check it out:

Moving on!  Everyone keeps asking me what I think of Cleveland.  I don't know much about Cleveland yet...but I'm getting there!  Tomorrow I move into my sweet, bright, many-windowed new home (which is NOT a damp moldy gross basement where I shiver on my twin size air mattress and silently curse the noisy roommates stomping above me at 1AM I CAN'T WAIT TO LEAVE THIS PLACE.)  I really do think that once I'm settled in a place where I know I'll be living at least a year, I can fully unpack, start making plans & friends and making Cleveland my own.

But speaking of friends - on Wednesday theatre buddy & blogger Amanda took me to the opening night of Life of Galileo at the brand new Cleveland Playhouse.  There IS culture to be had in Cleveland!  The production was top-notch, the lead actor was phenomenal, and the space was simply gorgeous.  

The story I want to tell though is when we get back to my car and it is COVERED IN LITTLE GREEN CRAWLY BUGS.  Like, out of a strange, weird horror movie.  Amanda, after she has put several hours into singing the praises of Cleveland, says, totally blase, "oh yeah...I forgot to mention the bugs."  Apparently the bugs lay eggs in the river and then they hatch and cover the buildings and the cars and any stationary surface in certain seasons.  Little green crawly bug-free wintertime is starting to look a lot more appealing...

I think that's about all I've got for the week...thanks for listening, and see you in class!

P.S.  Check out our first Yelp's a doozy:

1 comment:

  1. AWESOME post. Took a week for me to get to it but I think I actually NEEDED it today. Took the 6AM today and (if I'm honest) was on my autopilot too. I'm going to make a conscious effort to stay, well, conscious in my next class. I think when we pay attention to our practice then we are more likely to feel like Sheila does about swimming because we're actually recognizing the beauty of it all. Thanks for inspiring me! Sounds like you're doing great!!